For women in Sudan, playing soccer is big deal. The all-women Sudanese soccer team, aptly called The Challenge, are challenging the way are viewed in their society.
Women are not viewed well. As Mic points out, Sudan ranks 166 out of 187 in its Gender Inequality Index, the country has been wracked with civil war and women experience high levels of violence.
As the Social Institutions and Gender Index writes,“Women in Sudan have been subject to extremely high levels of violence from state and non-state actors. Women also continue to shoulder the burden of the displacement and poverty associated with conflict, and in rural areas, less than a third of women have had access to any form of education.”
The Challenge, then, have had their work cut out for them – for everything from funding, to having somewhere to practice, to being accepted by their society and challenging the status quo. The view point is, at present, that women don’t belong on the soccer field. The women do not receive any support from the Sudan Football Association.
“We are named The Challenge, because keeping this team going without any funding from the official football association in Sudan is not easy,” team captain Sara Edward told Al Jazeera.
The club survives off donations from women’s rights groups and stump of the rest out of their own pockets.
Recently there has been a push around the world toward encouraging girls and women to play sport – especially in developing nations. Sport, the belief goes, fosters positive body image, confidence, empowerment, and for some, it is a way of escaping poverty and entrenched – and limiting – attitudes about women.
Madhumita Das, a senior technical specialist at the International Center for Research on Women who specializes in female empowerment through sport, told Mic,
“In my view, it’s not just an avenue to engage girls in gender equality, but sports itself is an empowering tool,” Das said. “Even if you don’t discuss anything about female empowerment, 50% of the job is done just by letting them play.”